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What Karl Lagerfeld taught Canadian fashion designers

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His dark glasses, silver ponytail and penchant for an acerbic comment made him instantly recognizable outside the fashion world, but Canadian fashion designers saw in Karl Lagerfeld a consummate professional who remained a dominant force in fashion well into his 80s.

As the tributes pour in for Chanel’s longtime creative director, Canadian designers reflected on the combination of work ethic, innovation and a disregard for fads that made Lagerfeld a singular figure in the fashion industry and influenced the way they approached the business.

Great style doesn’t go out of fashion

As the world woke up to the news of Lagerfeld’s death on Tuesday, the flagship store of Pink Tartan clothing in Toronto’s fashionable Yorkville neighbourhood quickly assembled a window display of classic red-and-black Chanel suits in homage to the designer.

“I’ve always been inspired by it,” said the brand’s creative director, Kimberley Newport Mimran. “I actually wore a Chanel suit for my wedding.”

Canadian brand Pink Tartan’s headquarters in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood had its window display showing classic Chanel designs, in homage to Karl Lagerfeld, on Tuesday, the day his death was announced. (Keith Whelan/CBC)

Pink Tartan specializes in classically cut pieces for the working woman, including structured jackets and ladylike dresses— pieces that were also part and parcel of Lagerfeld’s fashion imprint at Chanel.

“It’s always been part of my design ethos because I love the whole idea of ‘Great style doesn’t go out of fashion,'” said Newport Mimran, a popular mantra in fashion that was a guiding principle behind Lagerfeld’s work. 

“He had so many great sound bites, such as ‘Being trendy is one step away from being tacky.’ So I just loved his point of view on fashion.”

Taking fashion off the runway

If Lagerfeld’s ability to reinterpret classics without falling victim to fashion’s trends was the key to his success in Newport Mimran’s eyes, fellow Canadian designer Nikki Wirthensohn Yassemi was most impressed by his ability to constantly be inspired by different things.

“Looking ahead was really big for him,” says Wirthensohn Yassemi, who heads the upscale evening wear brand Narces.

“I read about him replacing some of his artwork around his house because he wanted a fresh view all the time.”

Wirthensohn Yassemi also appreciated the way Lagerfeld built his fashion shows around extravagant environments that resembled big-budget Hollywood film sets more than a traditional fashion runway.

For his most recent spring-summer 2019 collection for Chanel, Paris’s historic Grand Palais, built for the 1900 world expo, was transformed into a beach, with models walking down a sandy runway, shoes in hand, waves washing over their feet. There was also a show that took place in a supermarket setting and one in a forest facade.

“Every runway show he had — going from a beach scene, doing incredible flowers, incredible places — it blew everyone’s mind,” says Wirthensohn Yassemi, whose own evening wear and bridal wear shows are often elaborately staged affairs, like the one at WedLuxe earlier this year.

Newport Mimran says she was also inspired by Lagerfeld’s out-of-the-box approach to showing his collections. What she loved best is that the displays were not gimmicks but just extensions of his creative vision. 

“He put on the best shows in the world that inspired everybody. But if you get down to the actual style and garments, he pushed it but always made an impeccable piece of clothing.”

Lagerfeld’s Canadian connection

Perhaps surprisingly, given the significant impact he’s had on the Canadian fashion world, Lagerfeld came to this country only once, in the spring of 2015, when he designed the lobbies at Toronto condo development Art Shoppe Lofts. 

But, tellingly of his star power and ability to connect with the young, his visit set Instagram ablaze, with young party-goers vying to meet him and take photos with him.

Wirthensohn Yassemi says she hopes she can be as energetic and vibrant as Lagerfeld as she grows older.

“He kept himself active, creative, inspired — it’s so amazing to be that way.”

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Virtual farmer’s market comes to Ottawa

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Ottawa first-ever virtual farmer’s market has begun delivering food from local farms straight to people’s homes.

Farm to Hand is making it easier for people who cannot access their local farmer’s markets to find local, fresh organic food by bringing ordered food right to their doors. 

“The difference between us and the farmers market is really just the convenience and the on-demandness,” Sean Mallia, the co-founder of the business, told CBC Radio’s In Town and Out.

“[Often times a] person wants to make the purchase but they don’t have the time on Saturdays to go to the farmers market. Everyone wants to eat local … so when it’s easy for them to do it, it just happens.” In Town and Out No time to drive to the farmer’s market but really want to eat local?

Connecting farmers with people 

The online platform allows farmers to list all their own products, and buyers can have the goods delivered. 

“What we really are trying to do is build that connection between farmer and consumer,” Mallia said. “When people fill up a cart … they’re not just filling a cart full of food, they’re filling a cart full of farmers and farms and their stories.”

Mallia said the aim is to connect people to the “vibrant food ecosystem” around them, and to local support farmers.

The virtual market is currently limited to the Ottawa area as a pilot project, but Mallia, 21, said the company is looking to expand.

“[We chose Ottawa because] Ottawa really cares. Ottawa really thinks about local [food] and thinks about sustainability,” he said. “It just made sense to come out of Ottawa.”

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Denley: Stonebridge and Mattamy show compromise is possible over development in Ottawa

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In Ottawa, development proposals too often end up in acrimony and trips to the provincial planning tribunal. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see Mattamy Homes and residents of the south Nepean suburb of Stonebridge work together to resolve a dispute in a way that’s likely to lead to a victory for both sides.

A little over a year ago, Mattamy created an uproar in the golf course community when it announced a plan to build 158 new homes on golf course lands and alter the Stonebridge course to make it shorter and less attractive to golfers. To residents, it looked like the first step in a plan to turn most, or all, of the course into housing.

It’s easy to see why residents were upset. When people pay a premium for a lot backing onto a golf course, there is certainly an implication that the lot will continue to back onto a golf course, but without a legally binding guarantee, it’s no sure thing.

Mattamy’s situation was understandable, too. This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive, doubly so when the golf course is owned by a development company.

This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive.

In the face of the local opposition, Mattamy withdrew its development application. When things cooled down, the company, the neighbours and the city started to work together on finding a solution that would satisfy everyone.

With the city-sponsored help of veteran planning consultant Jack Stirling, they came up with an unusual idea that will still let Mattamy develop its desired number of homes, in exchange for a promise to operate the course for at least 10 years and redesign it so that it remains attractive to golfers.

At the end of the 10 years, Mattamy can sell the course to the community for $6 million. To raise the money, the community working group is proposing a special levy to be paid by Stonebridge homeowners starting in 2021. The amount will range from $175 a year to $475 a year, depending on property values.

If the deal is approved by a majority of homeowners, Mattamy gets its development and a way out of the money-losing golf business. Homeowners get certainty about no future development. They can choose to keep the course going or retain the 198 acres as green space. It’s not a cheap solution, but it keeps their community as it is and preserves property values.

If a majority of homeowners backs the deal, both the levy and redevelopment will still need to be approved by the city, something scheduled for late this fall.

Stonebridge Community Association president Jay McLean was part of the working group that prepared the proposal and he’s pleased with the outcome. The community’s number one goal was preserving green space, and the deal will accomplish that, he says. Mattamy division president Kevin O’Shea says the deal “gives the community the certainty they are looking for.”

As useful as this deal could be for Stonebridge residents, it doesn’t provide a template to resolve a somewhat similar dispute in Kanata North, where the owner of the Kanata Lakes golf course wants to work with a group of local developers to replace the course with housing. In Kanata, a longstanding legal agreement saying the community has to have 40 per cent open space strengthens residents’ situation. In Stonebridge, there was no legal impediment to developing the whole course.

Golf course communities have become an anachronism in a city intent on intensifying within the urban boundary. Redeveloping those lands for housing is in sync with the city’s planning goals, but it’s not politically saleable to homeowners who thought they had a deal. If it goes ahead, the Stonebridge plan shows there is a reasonable middle ground.

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City eyes five big themes for Ottawa’s new official plan

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As Ottawa maps out its future for the next 25-plus years, city staff propose focusing on five major areas, including the places we live and the ways we move around the capital.

A staff report to the city’s planning committee lays out five themes for future public consultations, before city council finalizes the plan.

1. Growth Management: City staff say Ottawa should focus on building up, rather than out. Staff also suggest the city provide direction on the type of new housing developments, rather than focusing on the number of units in a development, to encourage a wider variety of housing types.

2. Mobility: Staff say the city should encourage active transportation — like walking and cycling — and transit use by better co-ordinating land use and transportation planning. The report also encourages designing streets to better accomodate pedestrians and cyclists, as well as improving connections to the O-Train and Transitway.

3.  Urban and Community Design: Because Ottawa is a major city and the nation’s capital, staff say the design of our city’s buildings and skyline should be a higher calibre to reflect that status. Staff also suggest the city provide high-level direction for better designed parks and public spaces.

4. Climate, Energy and Public Health: Staff say residents’ health must be foundational to the city’s new official plan, with policies contributing to creating more inclusive, walkable, and sustainable communities.

5. Economic Development: Because much of Ottawa’s employment is knowledge-based, the city suggests those employment spaces could be better integrated into neighbourhoods and along main streets and transit nodes, instead of being isolated in business parks. City staff also suggest the city encourage more business incubation and identify opportunities to increase local food production.

The city’s new official plan will map out the city’s growth to 2046. The five themes and the plan’s high-level policy direction will go before the city’s planning committee, next week.

Public consultation and fine-tuning is expected to happen before city council approves the final version of the new official plan in 2021.

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